The Colorado Springs Gazette

Has your phone’s speech-to-text gotten worse?


Has your speech-to-text gotten worse on your phone? Yes! you say. I thought I was the only one! Maybe it’s just the two of us. But I used to say to my phone a phrase along the following lines:

“The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain, apart from the portion that collects in the lower mountains of Andalusia.”

And that’s what it would type. Now I get this:

“Terrain in Spain says mane Lee on the plane, up heart from the poor shun recollects in the low mown trains of Andy Lucy.”

Lest you think I am speaking with a mouthful of crackers while my wife vacuums, no. I am talking with the precision of a BBC announcer in an empty room. I know the technology is amazing, and we take it for granted — but I’m convinced it’s broken, and I’m not alone.

If you search, “Has speech to text gotten worse?” you will find people who agree with you. Of course, if you search, “Are ramen noodles six microns thinner than they were in 1979?” you also will find people agreeing with you.

But one comment says it has gotten unambiguously worse, or, as the iphone might put it, “nun umbilical Le verse.” A possible solution, according to some, is to remove the dusty gunk from the microphone. Never thought of that! I suppose it’s like someone trying to lip-read when the other person has a dryer lint trap held in front of their mouth.

How do you clean the microphone? “Use a small sharp object, but not too sharp.” Perhaps a piece of vermicelli pasta that has been boiled for 27 seconds. Then “gently remove the obstructions.” Isn’t that like using a cotton swab to clean your ear, something we’re told not to do, because we end up with an impacted waxy mass that resembles the stock of a 1982 mall Wicks ‘ N’ Sticks store?

Better try vacuuming out the gunk. I tried my household vacuum, but it didn’t work. If only there were the equivalent of those cans of compressed air, but in reverse. It would be so handy to just point it at something and suck it up. We could use the industrial-sized equivalent to get something out of our dog’s mouth. The mutt gets ahold of a dead squirrel, you get out the can, press the SUCK button, it flies out, and the dog looks at you like you’re Gandalf the Wizard who used the Force, or something.

Anyway, nothing worked. Additional research suggested that the problem might be with the phone itself. Once upon a time the transcription duty was handled in the cloud, but now it’s onboard. Your phone is sluggish because it’s running 147 apps, including the Duolingo language lessons you haven’t used since January when you decided you wanted to learn how to order in Spanish when you went to Cancun in February.

So, what’s the solution? First of all, cancel Duolingo before it auto-renews. Second, relax and be grateful.

Tech advances always go like this. A) Oh, it’s a technological miracle that changes the way I do things! B) I’m used to it. C) It doesn’t work perfectly, I hate it and must complain online.

Well, until it works perfectly and we move on to some other petty annoyance, there is a workaround. You could use your phone like a phone, you know, to call someone.

It usually works fine, except instead of being misunderstood by a computer, you can be misunderstood by a human.





The Gazette, Colorado Springs